Together We Can -- Newsletter of the Joan Karnell Cancer Center
 

Summer 2003

Bloodless Medicine
A Survivor's Story
The Joy of Life
Improving the Lives of Women
 
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A Survivor's Story

Lynne Luttrell
I am a breast cancer survivor. On Christmas Day 2000, while in the shower, I found a lump in my left breast and a sense of dread overcame me. Anxiety struck. I knew I had cancer and I was scared. I was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer sometime in late January. I live with my youngest daughter and her two children and the weeks between diagnosis and surgery were filled with appointments for tests and scans. It was an emotionally and physically challenging time for all of us and, to say the least, each day became more and more precious to me.

On February 19th, Dahlia Sataloff, MD, performed a lumpectomy on my left breast. I received the first of four chemotherapy treatments on March 8. During this time, a breast cancer support group called Facing Forward had been formed. I joined and met a compassionate, caring, courageous and wonderful group of women. They are true heroes in every sense of the word and I love them all.

After being hospitalized with a low blood count and high fever for a few days, I received my last chemo treatment on May 17 and started a series of thirty-odd radiation treatments. On February 20, 2002, I was back in surgery again but this time the tumors were found to be benign. I am so happy to be alive. I have been surrounded by angels and have since become a volunteer at Pennsylvania Hospital. This hospital saved my life. If I can find a way to give help, hope and courage to others, than my own talents have not been wasted.

Jennifer Vrana
I am a 13-year veteran with the City of Philadelphia's police force and, as a hobby, I have spent the past 11 years competing in over 50 rodeos across the country. My specialty is steer wrestling. Some people say that working the streets of Philadelphia and being trampled and bruised by steer makes me a survivor. But standing here today in front of you makes me a true survivor. On November 4, 2001, I was diagnosed with Hodgkins Disease stage 4b with bone marrow involvement. My life should have been shattered, but it wasn't. I had two emotions well up inside me – determination and will power.

I was temporarily moved to a desk job in Center City, which was close to home and within walking distance to the hospital. I remember every morning looking in the mirror right before I left the house and saying to myself that I was still a cop. There were days I could barely stand but I had a family of 5,000 in blue that would not let me fall. I went to work everyday. They saw my good days and my bad days, but in my mind at least they saw me.

My initial chemotherapy included a cocktail of drugs called ABVD. I had 16 treatments every other week for eight months. I refused to allow myself to be sick. Instead, I put my energy into living. I traveled a lot and saw places I had never seen. I always gave myself something to look forward to; I visited my family almost every single weekend.

I later learned that my initial chemo did not completely kill the cancer and I had to go on salvage chemo followed by a stem cell transplant. My determination became stronger yet. Shortly before the transplant, I went to another rodeo competition and won the All Around Cowgirl title for the weekend – the first time in 11 years that I won that honor.

That night the rodeo clown came up to me and told me he had just found out that his brother had cancer and he had no idea what to say to him, until now. He would tell his brother a simple story about a cop and a competitor who wouldn't allow herself to stop living. The stem cell transplant was successful and I recently passed my six month CT scan with no new growth. My message to everyone is to never give up. We live in a society where we are given choices. It's not just about living, it's about how we choose to live. I choose to live and live well.

 


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